CalMac ferries sailed into another storm of protest yesterday (Wednesday May 16) as the company announced an emergency service for June 1-12 while the Clansman ferry is fitted with an new propellor shaft
The underlying problem is that the company no longer has a large back-up vessel and can’t cope when one vessel is out of service.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar spoke of anger and frustration over the implications for the travelling public, local and visiting, at one of the busiest times of the year.
CalMac explained that following on from a temporary repair to the vessel’s propulsion system, the vessel will be in dry-dock again for a permanent replacement part to be fitted from June 1 returning on June 12.
During this period an amended service will operate on the Mallaig Armadale route and the Mallaig Lochboisdale route will have no service.
Customers wishing to travel between Mallaig and Lochboisdale will be directed via Oban-Castlebay or Uig-Lochmaddy.
Additional sailings have been organised on the Barra to Eriskay route enabling passengers to travel to South Uist via Oban-Castlebay on the same day.
The 22-year-old MV Loch Bhrusda – originally built for the Leverburgh- Berneray service -will also be deployed on the Skye route to provide additional.
‘This is an essential piece of work that we wanted to schedule in before the summer season fully started and have built a temporary timetable that causes the least disruption whilst maintaining all lifeline services,” said CalMac, managing director, Robbie Drummond. “We fully appreciate the impact this will have on the communities affected which we apologise for. In the circumstances we have tried to limit the disruption to as few routes as possible and will deliver extra sailings to help manage passenger movements as best we can within the resources we have available.
“Although it will be frustrating for communities to see the Clansman come back into service and then leave again so soon, this was a preferable option to having her laid up until the new propeller shaft was manufactured, delivered and fitted,” said Mr Drummond.
A full scheduled timetable will run again from June 13, the company promised.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the CnES Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said, “We were contacted this morning by senior management from CalMac to confirm the scheduling of the dry-docking of the Clansman and what temporary arrangements are being put in place while she is out of use”.
“CalMac has decided to allocate the MV Lord of the Isles on the routes serving Coll, Tiree and Colonsay during this period with the effect that she will not be available to provide a service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale.
“The alternatives for passengers wishing to travel to South Uist is to use the Oban Castlebay and Sound of Barra crossings or the Uig Lochmaddy crossing.
“This will undoubtedly be inconvenient for everyone planning travel to and from our islands, and I daresay will not only lead to a number of cancellations, which the tourism sector can ill-afford, and a loss of confidence in these services going forward.
“This could in turn result in visitors choosing alternative holiday destinations in the future”.
“This is particularly frustrating for those involved in the tourism sector which has seen real and sustainable growth over the last several years. The Comhairle has played an important role in this and we are disappointed that all the efforts by the businesses and their representative bodies have been undermined by recent events”.
“We appreciate the advance notice given and the improvement in communications undertaken by CalMac and we recognise the situation the operator faces in having to operate the services within the constraints of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service Contract and a limited and ageing fleet.
“We very much continue to look to Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to ensure that the additional capacity is provided as quickly as possible.
“Not only would this provide cover in the event of unforeseen situations such as that affecting the wider network, but would go a long way to addressing the needs arising from the obvious increase in demands particularly during peak periods in the year.”